Typically, a food business begins with a single person: the founder. This individual has the vision, the product, and the entrepreneurial drive to try turning their grand idea into a business. They work like a madperson to dial in their product, cultivate a brand, build brand awareness, secure distribution, generate a customer base, and grow sales. This means they have their hands in everything—R&D, production, sourcing, marketing, branding, finances, you name it.
Sound familiar? In some cases, there are two co-founders who split the workload, but the fact remains the same: Most early-stage food companies involve one or two people bearing an incredible amount of responsibility. Even if they hire freelancers here and there, the founder or co-founders still hold the bag.
Assuming the business is moderately successful, this structure can work fine for a while. But there inevitably comes a point at which being a one- or two-person show will inhibit the brand’s growth potential. In order to scale up and move into the next phase of expansion, the company needs to increase its bandwidth by bringing more hands on deck. Put simply, it’s time to build out a team.
Arriving at this stage in a business’s arc is exciting. It means the founder has proven their concept in the marketplace and their hustle is paying off. It also means they can transfer some of their heavy workload to someone else—or multiple people—with expertise in certain areas. Whether that be marketing, technology, financial management, or sales just depends on the most pressing needs at that time.
Sylvie Charles, M.D., realized that her company had reached this point last year. Since launching Just Date in 2018, she had grown the organic real-fruit sweetener brand into a national player with great traction in the natural retail channel, plus an e-commerce and foodservice business. But to really ramp up, Sylvie knew she could no longer fly solo. She brought on a business partner plus full-time marketing and sales help, and she’s amazed by how much the team has accomplished already.
Another great benefit of building a team is it allows the founder to step back—to work on their business rather than in their business. “It gives you a little space to think on larger strategies,” Sylvie shares in Edible-Alpha® podcast #117. “As a leader, sometimes you can get bogged down in the operations details because that’s what you need to do for companies to function. But to finally get the chance to take a more macro look—to think about bigger goals and strategy—that is really exciting.”
Of course, transitioning to a team isn’t without challenges. First and foremost, it costs money to bring on top talent, which can cut into cash flow or profits. It can also be hard for founders to hand off certain responsibilities and trust that someone else can execute. Also, the qualities that make a good entrepreneur are not always the same qualities that make a good CEO or other executive. Because of that, some founders struggle with running a larger company or find they just don’t like their new role.
That said, many solo-operator-to-team transitions go very smoothly. If building a team will allow a business to reach new heights, it’s often a smart strategy.
Most food entrepreneurs don’t start out as doctors, but Sylvie Charles, M.D., felt she could help more people by offering a healthy alternative to sugar. So, she left her stable career and launched Just Date. After bootstrapping her business, she recently built a team and secured investors to fuel the next phase of growth. Hear how Sylvie has brought the brand this far and what’s on tap next.
Registration Now Open!
Get registered for our upcoming event: Investing in the Future of Food, on September 21, 2022! At this event, opportunities to connect with food-focused entrepreneurs will be the highlight, directly through exhibitions and sampling, plus indirectly through discussion and presentations. This is a hybrid event, you may join virtually or in person in Madison, WI at the Pyle Center.
And now, our roundup of the best food and beverage finance news, events and resources from around the web…
Business Model Insights
- How to Create Opportunity in an Inflationary Environment (IRI Insights)
- Manufacturers must identify and create new revenue opportunities while sustaining shopper loyalty through strategies that meet consumers’ shifting needs.
- How Food Brands Can Meet the Rising Demand for Safety and ESG certifications (Food Industry Executive)
- What it means to build a diverse and equitable vendor community (New Hope Network)
- Organic Brands Now Face a Very Different Financial Environment (Organic Insider)
- The Ukraine war, strained supply chains, inflation and lingering effects of the pandemic have made operating an organic food business especially difficult, potentially cooling investor interest.
- New fellowship program to support minority-owned startups (Dairy Processing)
- Investing in the Invisible Middle of Agriculture (Regenerative Food Systems Investment Forum News)
- Changing perceptions about what’s in the dairy case (Dairy Processing)
- While innovation has been hindered by the pandemic and inflation, processors are finding success around plant-based alternatives, new formats, simple ingredients and formulations that meet specific dietary needs.
- Mintel shares areas ripe for innovation that balance post-pandemic and tighter financial needs (FoodNavigator-USA)
- Product Features Alone Won’t Win in Today’s Market (Deep Dish CPG)
- What does ‘plant-based’ mean to consumers? FMI investigates (FoodNavigator-USA)
- As consumer interest in “plant-based” has grown, products proudly proclaiming this status have proliferated. But what does the term actually mean, and how influential is it really?
- CPG Packaging Trends That You Should Know (Deep Dish CPG)
- Inflation shifts grocery purchasing behavior for U.S. consumers (Supermarket News)
Farming and AgTech
- Q&A: Inside AgriCapture’s 50,000-plus-acre cover cropping program in the US (AgFunder News)
- Learn about the carbon offset startup’s current projects and what it will take to get more farmers to adopt regenerative agriculture practices.
- Milk Pricing: Reform starts with farmer/processor relationship (Wisconsin State Farmer)
- As farmland values soar, so do fears of a price bubble (Successful Farming)
- Food and beverage M&A dips in Q2, study finds (Food Dive)
- Year-over-year drop from 99 to 84 deals was due largely to interest rate hikes, continuing global tensions, record-level inflation rates and supply chain constraints.
- V&V Supremo Foods purchases Mill Creek Cheese (Dairy Processing)
- Food-Waste Tech Company Afresh Raises $115 Million in Funding (Bloomberg)
- Aptean Food and Beverage Symposium: 9/13
- WWBIC/FaB Wisconsin Training Session: Specialty Foods: Get Your Product on a Shelf: 9/19
- Edible-Alpha® Immersion Training: Managing Uncertainty: Scenario Planning: 9/19–9/29
- FFI Investing in the Future of Food: 9/21 (hybrid event)
- WWBIC/FaB Wisconsin Training Session: Food Halls and Markets: 9/26
- The Land Connection: Grow Your Farm Business: Launch Your Cottage Food Or Value-Added Enterprise: 10/6–11/17
- FFI October Quarterly Trends Talk: 10/10
- Edible-Alpha® Immersion Training: Farm Financial Management Bootcamp: 11/15
- Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation Annual Convention Training Session: Manufacturing Resiliency: 12/3
- Marbleseed Field Day: First Generation Farm Start-Up: 8/27 in Alexandria, MN
- Rodale Institute California Organic Center Field Day: 8/30 in Ventura, CA
- Farm Progress Show: 8/30–9/1 in Boone, IA
- Soil Health Academy School: Increased Profits Through Stacked Enterprises & Direct Marketing: 8/30–9/1 in Bismarck, ND
- Plant Based World Expo: 9/8–9/9 in New York, NY
- Food Automation and Manufacturing Symposium and Expo: 9/11–9/14 in Miami, FL
- Americas Food & Beverage Show: 9/12–9/13 in Miami, FL
- Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Day: 9/14 in Benton Harbor, MI
- Marbleseed Field Day: Urban Growers Collective Farm Tours: 9/17 in Chicago, IL
- International Baking Industry Exposition: 9/17–9/21 in Las Vegas, NV
- FFI Investing in the Future of Food: 9/21 in Madison, WI
- Soil Health Academy School: Transformational Dairying: 9/26–9/28 in Kinzers, PA
- Natural Products Expo East: 9/28–10/1 in Philadelphia, PA
- World Dairy Expo: 10/2–10/7 in Madison, WI
- Regenerative Food Systems Investment Forum: 10/12–10/13
- Rodale Institute Regenerative Healthcare Conference: 10/16–10/19 in Kutztown, PA
- Food Safety Consortium Conference and Expo: 10/19–10/21 in Parsippany, NJ
- PACK EXPO International: 10/23–10/26 in Chicago, IL
- Rodale Institute Southeast Organic Center Field Day: 10/26 in Chattahoochee Hills, GA
- Global Produce and Floral Show: 10/27–10/29 in Orlando, FL
- Accessing New Markets Through Distribution Field Day: 10/28 in Urbana, IL